- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

RICE LAKE, Wis. (AP) - The Rev. Karl Rose had too many books.

The majority of the books was an inheritance from his father, Martin Rose, a former reverend at First Lutheran Church in Rice Lake and an intellectual, wholeheartedly drawn to theology - a sarcastic and loving man who wrenched over changes in Lutheranism.

Karl Rose wondered what to do with the German theology books that sat in his garage, the books that his father loved for their flavor, since most Lutheran literature was written in German.

“I studied for a year in Germany,” Rose said. “With a lot of work I can get through the stuff, but I knew the books would be wasted on me.”

This summer, Rose and members of his family packed 58 boxes of German theology books and sent them to the president of Rose’s synod in St. Louis.

So when a box arrived at Rose’s doorstep in October, he was little dispirited, thinking another onslaught of books had arrived, The Chippewa Herald (https://bit.ly/1w0Og30 ) reported.

“This (package) came and I thought, ‘Here I got rid of all these books and more are coming,’” Rose said.

But this package was a long time coming. Rose opened the box from the Rice Lake church and inside found another box, this one with a postmarked date of April 3, 1964 from Darmstadt, Germany.

Rose’s wife, Pamela, called First Lutheran Church to find out that the package had been delivered to the church in October by the United States Postal Service.

The church’s secretary, Sue Pederson, said current pastor Jerry Bernecker saw the package and showed her the postmark date.

“I was shocked when he pointed it out,” she said.

Bernecker recalled that Martin Rose was a former pastor at the church, so he addressed the package to his son.

___

Opening the box stirred memories for Rose of his father.

He remembered when he would walk into the kitchen in the early mornings and find his father’s leg on the table, Martin’s eyes peering over a book that he would annotate with the pen or pencil or sometimes a marker he was would be holding.

“He just had this love all through his life and he accumulated the books,” Rose said of his father. “He would often get boxes (of books) from Germany.”

When Rose’s father, mother and sister were visiting Germany, Martin would walk into a book house and introduce himself. The Germans recognized his name from all the purchases he made and invited him for tea.

Martin’s name was even recognized by a woman who worked at a Stillwater, Minnesota, bookstore, Loome Theological Bookseller.

“He’d go into Loome and he’d come out with a stack of books worth $100 and a kind of sheepish grin on his face,” Rose recalled. “Mom learned never to ask about the price of books.”

Martin favored a pair of bold checkered light pants that he would don in the summer months. But after spending some time in Germany, he came back without them.

“Someone asked him where his pants were and he said, ‘There wasn’t enough room in the case for the books and the pants. They can find their own way home,’” Rose said. “That was him. That was his life.”

Martin’s interest in reading German started with a background in the language that he learned from his parents, and sprouted with a pastor he met while in Cleveland, Ohio.

The books that arrived on Rose’s doorstep were manuscripts entitled, “Christianity and Science,” in German, of course.

“Some of the really important conservative theologians (and Martin) wrote letters back and forth,” Rose said. “They would suggest books and he would find out from different places if they had the books and order them,” Rose said.

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Pete Nowacki is a veteran postman based in the Twin Cities. He said in 28 years, he has never heard of a package arriving half a century late.

“In most cases where a piece of mail shows up years later, it is a letter that someone found in a shop, or perhaps while remodeling an older building, and then that letter is dropped back into the mail,” he said.

Nowacki said the package’s location for those 50 years will likely never be known.

“There are no markings or bar codes that would indicate when it was turned over to the Postal Service,” he said. “It may have been in Germany, it may have been in customs, it may have been somewhere else.”

Typically a package arrives at an international service center, such as New York, then is turned over to customs and finally to the Postal Service for delivery.

Maybe Rose will hang on to these books, or maybe they’re fated to the same destinations as the 58 boxes he packed up earlier this year.

Those were sent to the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in St. Louis.

“Some of them the president will use for himself, some will go to South Africa where there are German-speaking people, and then wherever he sees the need,” Rose said.

Rose sent some of the English-language books his father had amassed to David Lau, a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire.

Although Rose didn’t recall his father mentioning any missing package from 1964, he said Martin probably knew it was coming.

And it did come, eventually.

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Information from: The Chippewa Herald, https://www.chippewa.com

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